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The Quiet Revolution That Transformed Women's Employment, Education, and Family

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  • Claudia Goldin

Abstract

The modern economic role of women emerged in four phases. The first three were evolutionary; the last was revolutionary. Phase I occurred from the late nineteenth century to the 1920s; Phase II was from 1930 to 1950; Phase III extended from 1950 to the late 1970s; and Phase IV, the "quiet revolution," began in the late 1970s and is still ongoing. Three aspects of women's choices distinguish the evolutionary from the revolutionary phases: horizon, identity, and decision-making. The evolutionary phases are apparent in time-series data on labor force participation. The revolutionary phase is discernible using time-series evidence on women's more predictable attachment to the workplace, greater identity with career, and better ability to make joint decisions with their spouses. Each of these series has a sharp break or inflection point signifying social and economic change. These changes, moreover, coincide by birth cohort or period. The relationship between the development of modern labor economics and the reality of women's changing economic role is explored. The paper concludes by assessing whether the revolution has stalled or is being reversed. Women who graduated college in the early 1980s did not "opt-out,"but recent cohorts are too young to evaluate.
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Suggested Citation

  • Claudia Goldin, 2006. "The Quiet Revolution That Transformed Women's Employment, Education, and Family," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 96(2), pages 1-21, May.
  • Handle: RePEc:aea:aecrev:v:96:y:2006:i:2:p:1-21
    Note: DOI: 10.1257/000282806777212350
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    References listed on IDEAS

    as
    1. Claudia Goldin & Lawrence F. Katz & Ilyana Kuziemko, 2006. "The Homecoming of American College Women: The Reversal of the College Gender Gap," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 20(4), pages 133-156, Fall.
    2. Goldin, Claudia, 1984. "The historical evolution of female earnings functions and occupations," Explorations in Economic History, Elsevier, vol. 21(1), pages 1-27, January.
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    5. Blau, Francine D & Kahn, Lawrence M, 1997. "Swimming Upstream: Trends in the Gender Wage Differential in 1980s," Journal of Labor Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 15(1), pages 1-42, January.
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    7. Claudia Olivetti, 2006. "Changes in Women's Hours of Market Work: The Role of Returns to Experience," Review of Economic Dynamics, Elsevier for the Society for Economic Dynamics, vol. 9(4), pages 557-587, October.
    8. Goldin, Claudia D, 1991. "The Role of World War II in the Rise of Women's Employment," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 81(4), pages 741-756, September.
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    11. Claudia Goldin, 1989. "The Role of World War II in the Rise of Women's Work," NBER Working Papers 3203, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
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    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • J1 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Demographic Economics
    • J2 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Demand and Supply of Labor
    • N3 - Economic History - - Labor and Consumers, Demography, Education, Health, Welfare, Income, Wealth, Religion, and Philanthropy

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